Police say a mystery $65,000 stock theft has left the victims "extremely gutted''.
Mataura Police issued a public appeal yesterday, following a lack of leads concerning the rustling of 320 sheep and eight rams from a Waimumu farm, believed to have occurred during Easter.
Mataura Constable Wayne McClelland said a stock theft of this scale was "unusual'' in his experience, and had caused considerable distress to the farm owners.
"Obviously a theft of this magnitude, where you've lost tens of thousands' worth of property, would hit anyone pretty hard. It's a significant loss of assets given the size of the farm in question.''
The thieves had left police with little evidence to go on.
• Rustlers steal 320 sheep from one farm
However, due to the scale of the theft, McClelland was hopeful somebody may have noticed unusual activity during the identified incident period of Sunday April 21-28.
"This is a theft on a commercial scale, involving reasonable sophistication, and significant planning and logistical support. We would like to hear from anybody who was in, or passing through, the Waimumu area southwest of Gore at the time, and from any freight operators who may have noticed unusual activity.''
The stolen rams could be identified by "very distinctive'' orange spray paint marks on their backs, he said.
NZ First list MP and Lawrence sheep farmer Mark Patterson said recent legislation would mean those committing such offences would now face heavier punishment if caught.
Following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill in March, theft of livestock, or other animals, carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment, and unlawful entry to land used for agriculture purpose, where someone intends on stealing livestock, could result in up to 10 years' jail time.
Estimates put losses to rustling at $120million a year.
"The combination of isolation and lack of boundary security faced by most farmers makes these sorts of crimes an insidious violation of rural people's lives and homes.
"Like me, most rural people will know someone who's lost stock, and understand the impact it has on their sense of security, and often their livelihood too.''
Mataura police (03) 203-8164; Crimestoppers 0800 555-111